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Black Friday is a retailer’s dream - for decades Black Friday deals have brought hordes of eager shoppers into malls across America at all hours of the day and night. But with the steady and unrelenting increase of online shopping - and even same day delivery - the state of retail is adjusting as traditional brick and mortar stores work to win back an online-focused consumer. 

2019 ushered in the latest Thanksgiving to date - leaving a short timeframe for holiday shoppers to get their holiday shopping done after Thanksgiving. At Skyhook, we look at location signals and foot traffic to better understand what is happening in the physical world - and we wanted to see how a changing retail environment, a shorter ‘traditional’ shopping window, and shopper habits affected foot traffic in 2019. 
 
According to Adobe’s Digital Insights 2019 Holiday Report on shopping trends, Americans spent $7.4 billion online on Black Friday and $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day. They predict that the total spent on holiday shopping in 2019 will come to $143.8 Billion, compared to 2018’s $126 Billion. Consumers are continuing to spend increasing amounts on holiday gifts, but the way that they shop has changed over time. There has been a steady increase in those who buy online, but pick up in store, which may be a saving grace for brick and mortar retailers with an online presence. “About 82% of people who head to the store to pick up on online purchase will then continue their shopping in person”, Jason Woosley, Adobe's vice president of commerce product and platform, said in an interview with CNN Business
 
The late Thanksgiving holiday may have prompted retailers to start their promotions earlier, causing a surge in early shopping. Over half of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation in the first week of November 2019 had already started their holiday shopping. 
 

Foot Traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2019

The National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics reported that 124 million people shopped in stores while 142.2 million shopped on retailers’ websites. There were 75.7 million shoppers who shopped both online and offline. Black Friday was the busiest day for in-store activity, with 84.2 million shoppers, and Thanksgiving Day had 37.8 million. Skyhook’s foot traffic analysis confirms this data - below we show Thanksgiving through Black Friday foot traffic numbers. 
 
To provide an overarching view of hourly shopping patterns across the U.S., we combined data from all of the malls in our data set. In general, our data showed a spike in visitors on Thanksgiving around 8:00 PM, followed by the lowest visitor numbers at 4:00 AM and then a steady increase upwards until early to mid-afternoon. The busiest shopping time was at 1:00 PM, with a decline after that time period. This is a similar traffic pattern to the 2018 flow of shoppers
 
Take into consideration that open times vary by mall, and different stores will have sales and incentives throughout both days that can influence shopper behavior. Overall, each mall is different, but these findings are meant to provide general insights into Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. 
 
 

How We Put Together the Analysis

TIDE (Tiled Device Estimates) provides de-identified counts of location requests and unique devices within an approximately 100x100 meter (hectare) tile for every hour of a week. The data is categorized by source type (IoT, App-based, etc.) and localized into every time zone. Everyday Skyhook’s Precision Location solution processes billions of location requests for hundreds of millions of devices globally.
 
We looked at our TIDE data and filtered to specifically look at large traditional malls and outlets. Skyhook bases TIDE counts on the subset of total devices that are detectable through our network. While this rarely represents a full count of all mobile devices, it provides an accurate and valid approximation of foot traffic with extremely high temporal and positional accuracy.  We analyzed each state and the number of devices detected at malls within that state’s borders. Each ‘device’ refers to a mobile device, so we consider each device to refer to one shopper. 
 

The Busiest Malls on Black Friday 2019

Out of malls across the United States, Skyhook saw notably high foot traffic activity gains at certain malls based on our device detection during November 28 - 29.  Here are the top 20: 
  • Tyson’s Corner Center
  • Potomac Mills 
  • Woodfield Mall 
  • St. John’s Town Center 
  • Sawgrass Mills 
  • Willowbrook Mall
  • SouthPark Mall 
  • Mall of Georgia Crossing 
  • Citadel Outlets
  • Allen Premium Outlets
  • Arundel Mills 
  • Christiana Mall 
  • Ontario Mills 
  • Mall of America 
  • The Mills at Jersey Gardens 
  • The Galleria Houston 
  • Mall of Georgia 
  • Easton Town Center 
  • Opry Mills 
  • Oakbrook Center
 

Foot Traffic at The Mall of America on Black Friday 2019

 
The Mall of America is one of the busiest malls in America, and on Thanksgiving and Black Friday it was no different. In the heat map above, you can see the flow of foot traffic throughout the mall. Below is an hourly foot traffic distribution estimate. 
 

Top 10 States with the highest number of devices seen at malls on Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2019

The size of the state and access to malls may have a direct correlation to this number and rating, with Texas and California unsurprisingly at the top of the list. This list is based on the number of devices Skyhook detected and provides a valid examination on general device traffic. 
  • Texas
  • California
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Illinois 
  • Georgia 
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • New Jersey
Conclusion: 
E-commerce is putting a lot of pressure on department stores and retailers, but according to our foot traffic analysis, shoppers are still visiting brick and mortar stores. Location intelligence can be incredibly informative for retail owners looking to better understand shopping patterns at their location, at those of their competitors, and in comparison to malls across the globe in order to best reach target consumers and draw them to shopping in-store as opposed to online in the future. 
 
   

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